The best of the garden

Too many parts of the garden disappoint when photographed. The gardener’s eye compresses the view, while the camera minimizes plants, making only the most congested scenes appear worthy. Yes, there are sheds to crop out of the photograph, along with weeds, broken pots, piles of branches, and shovels left to be picked up another day. But fortunately, there are areas where plants tumble over one another, where lush ferns, hostas, and Forest grass fill gaps, so that a few wider angles of the garden can be shared.

This bluestone path is bordered by Dorothy Wycoff pieris, Ostrich ferns, and a variety of hostas. A tall boxwood stands at the intersection of two paths. Instead of being chopped out when it encroached on the path, it was pruned into a tall cone.

This is not an orderly garden. There is no formality besides a single boxwood that has long been too close to the intersection of two paths. Several years ago it was pruned into a tall, narrow cone (above), and what will happen (very soon) when it grows out of reach to maintain this shape, I don’t know. Otherwise, no pruning is done except for stems of ivies, periwinkle, hostas, and nandinas that stray onto the stone paths. I’m not certain if my wife prunes these to be helpful, or if she’s trying to keep me in my place.

Moss covered stones line the edges of the stream with sweetbox, hostas, ferns, and Japanese Forest grass.

Much of the garden has become shaded after three decades of planting, and I’m pleased that this environment encourages seedlings of hellebores, Jack-in-the-pulpit, ferns, and hostas, many of which are regularly transplanted. Logically, there should be little space available for new planting, but my wife is annually astounded as spots are found for new truckloads.

Sweetbox, Japanese Forest grass, and hostas border moss covered rocks that line the stream. In a few weeks, ferns will arch over the stream. Flowers of hostas and sweetbox are minor attractions to this area, but lush greens and contrasting textures make this my favorite spot in the garden.
A Viridis Japanese maple and Ostrich ferns border this bluestone patio. My wife insists that she occasionally sits on the lichen covered chairs, but I fear the joints have rotted and they’ll collapse under my weight. A few branches have been carved out of the maple’s wide spreading canopy so that the chair is not pushed to the center of this small aptio.
Stone steps curve through hostas, ferns, and periwinkle. The few upper steps are fieldstone, with the lower four black basalt that can be slick when wet.
Acrocona spruce tumbles over a stone wall that retains the lower edge of the koi pond. While the spruce will eventually grow to fifteen feet tall, after a decade it has barely reached three feet, though it has spread much wider.
Seedling geraniums have established at the edge of this stone patio. Gold Cone juniper rises behind it, though in the heat of Virginia its color never reaches the brightness that I see in the lower humidity of the west coast. The pot contains a young Japanese maple planted earlier in the spring.
The color of Gold Fernspray cypress is at its peak in winter and early spring, and it fades slightly in the heat of summer. This blue and yellow variegated hosta fades in a bit too much sun for its liking.
Branches of a wide spreading Viridis Japanese maple arch over the oldest of the garden’s five ponds. It must be pruned every few years so that the pond is not lost beneath its cascading branches.
Irises, pickerel weed, and sweetflag are planted in the shallow filtration area of the large koi pond (about 1400 square feet). Japanese irises and rushes are planted in pockets between stones that line the pond’s edge.
The stone path through the side garden is covered by fallen blooms of Chinese Snowball viburnum.
Hostas and Ostrich ferns have grown to nearly block this path that crosses a narrow section of one of the garden’s ponds. This is a prime target for my wife’s pruners, so I’ll enjoy it while I can.
An accidental triumph of plants that have spread or seeded from their origins. The seedling geranium grows in a gap between stones along with Creeping Jenny.
Silver Edge rhododendron and terrestrial orchids flower in front of Shaina Japanese maple.
A stone frog rests contentedly in this bed of sedum.


13 Comments Add yours

  1. Susan Kulhavi says:

    Wonderful garden and I think you may live in our neighborhood! Would love to see your garden if you are in fact close by.

    1. Dave says:

      I am on the east side of Warrenton, just over the hill from Rt. 29. If you’re close by, I’m sure it could be arranged.

      1. Susan Kulhavi says:

        Yes, we are neighbors. If you have access to my email address, please be in touch at your convenience.

  2. Lauren says:

    Just beautiful! Stunning garden you have there, sir.

    One thing did catch my eye though, you say you’re pond is 1,400sf? Let me just check something…*rustling papers*… yup. you’re pond is bigger than my house by 120 sf!

    Don’t let anyone tell you everything is bigger in Texas, after the traveling I’ve done I think the motto should be “Nothing is bigger in Texas!” So far the list that proves that motto includes mosquitos, seagulls, whitetail deer… and now ponds.

    1. Anne Kelly says:

      I had the same though – bigger than our house!

    2. Dave says:

      The pond is as large as I could make it to fit it between existing plants and my shed, but still allowing a path between to get to the back third of the garden. I dug the hole with a borrowed excavator, and my son helped roll out the rubber liner, but I spread every shovel of gravel and moved every boulder into place to minimize cost. I dug the four smaller ponds by hand.

  3. Lynn says:

    I think your garden is just stunning!~

    1. Dave says:

      Of course, I don’t show the parts that need work. Hopefully, the work in progress areas get smaller each year, but the garden will never be finished.

  4. Anne Kelly says:

    Absolutely beautiful and obviously a labor of love! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Steve says:

    Your garden looks great to me even if you do not think the photographs do it justice. I liked the Japanese look you have to certain areas

  6. Norma says:

    Your shade garden is magical. I now after 16 years find myself with considerable shade that I am having a difficult time finding and keeping shade loving shrubs and plants alive. Between rabbits and shade I continously struggle to keep something anything to survive under oak and dogwoods. Even my hostas and periwinkle in dark shade get nibbled on. So my question is how do you keep rabbits at bay?

    1. Dave says:

      I spray a repellent for deer since they have been a considerable problem in the past. I see rabbits regularly, but rarely see damage, so I suspect the deer repellent must have some effect on them as well.

      There is a range in the garden from very dry shade under shallow rooted maples and tulip poplars, to small areas of damp shade. I do not water anything after the first time or two, and if I’m able to plant just before a rain I will probably never water a new plant.

      Instead of removing leaves in autumn, leaves are shredded and allowed to decay in place, so even in areas with surface roots of maples there is enough surface soil moisture that I find seedlings of hellebores, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and hostas. In some spots these are thick enough that they must be transplanted or weeded out.

  7. Melinda Abrazado says:

    Beautiful!! I am very glad you identify the plants and the best conditions for them.

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